Finally, Chris’s account of his Japanese adventures from a few weeks before. Buckle up, and beware of the snowboarding stories:
14 hours later and touch down, g’day Tokyo, niced to meet ya!
Here I am, land of the rising sun, snowboard bag on my shoulder, ready to take down Japan.
Just a couple of Tokyo subway rides, a short walk and I arrive at hotel heaven… K’s House Hostel in Tokyo is exactly what you want a hostel to be—super clean, super cheap, super friendly and super location (I really stretched my vocab in that description). Seriously awesome diggs —if you’re ever in need of some great accommodation in Tokyo, I couldn’t recommend it higher!
Dropped my bags off, tagged along with some fellow travelers and had the best sushi of my life— the salmon was like silk. Washed it down with some refreshing green tea, then on to a late night wander around some ancient Japanese temples. Life is pretty sweet.
I woke up early, still buzzing from arriving in a place that is completely foreign to me, pumped to see my best friend and ready to do some hard core snowboarding. Syanora K’s House, thanks for the good times.
A subway, a monorail, a flight and a bus ride later, I arrive at the gorgeous Hilton Niseko – two words: snow and snow. I had never seen so much in my life. Excellent!
I met up with Anton, had a beer, then headed to Hirafu for some night skiing. That’s right! The hills don’t close until 9:00pm. There is something incredibly awesome about riding as fast as you can through fresh snow with giant stadium light guiding the way.
Next day, more snowboarding, and this time it gets epic! Anton uses his local experience and takes me on a tour of fresh lines and insane powder. About 3 hours into it, I am ready to collapse – I have never felt a burn like that before, powder riding is as hard as it is fun.
We finish up at an authentic Ramen Shack about half way up Hirafu resort and chow down on some delicious ramen noodles – imagine 2 minute noodles, only 6,000 time better. Mine had snow crab!
We head back, Anton has to work, and I have to have an onsen, a traditional Japanese hot bath. The water is heated by natural hot springs and is a toasty 123ºF. The kicker no 1. is that it is 100% naked, the traditional Japanese even frown on tattoos. Kicker no 2. is the old cleaning lady walking around cleaning up after all of the very naked dudes.
The onsen is one of the most relaxing experiences I have ever had. Once you have had your fill of the natural springs, you go and have a shower – sitting down. Then there is a range of complementary toiletries to pimp yourself up with and I felt like a new man once it was all over.
The fourth, fifth and sixth day of my journey resembled each other a lot, a bevy of amazing snowboarding, beer drinking and eating unusual foods. A quick list of the more unusual:
- Chicken Heart
- Chicken Skin
- Lots of random seafood with not-so-cool textures
- Dried fish flakes – look and tastes a lot like fish food
- Silken Tofu
- Raw Horse (not very proud about this one, but gotta try everything once…)
A lot of the restaurants are crazy, open grill, public houses, a lot like the local dive bars in the states and the pubs in Ireland. Except instead of drinking, the people eat. You buy all of these wonderful foods that come in tiny, cheap portions. You literally spend hours (I did) sampling and chatting and digging the vibe. Just a quick note, if you are taller then 5’10”, watch your head. I had a permanent lump in the middle of my head for the entire time I was there.
My trip to Japan rounded out nicely, a minor mishap when a tree branch and my face decided to have a fight, did nothing to dampen my spirits. I was exhausted, but I had some of the best times of my life.
I made the long trek back to New York City thoroughly in love with the country that is Japan.
Some summary points:
- Japanese people are the most polite, happy people I have come across.
- It is the cleanest place I have ever been. Which baffles me considering I couldn’t find a trash can for the life of me.
- 90% of their toilets have bidet’s. Nothing like an arse shower first thing in the morning.
- It is an amazing combination of incredibly high-tech and super old school traditional.
- Go – check it out – it is worth it.